Them: “We want to start a foundation.”
Me: “Okay, tell me more about why you’d like to do that. You already have a strong corporate giving program.”
Them: “Our competitor has a foundation. They get a lot of press about it.”
Me: “I understand. Are you prepared to give up a portion of your company’s profits to put towards your foundation? Are you prepared to fundraise on behalf of your foundation? Have you thought about the new internal processes you would have to develop for your grantmaking purposes?”
Them: Crickets chirping.
This type of conversation is not unusual and happens on a fairly regular basis. And it’s why I continue to reiterate the message that if you’re going to “give back” to your community – whether it’s through a corporate giving program or a corporate foundation or another method – it has to be genuine and authentic. It cannot be because you want good press, or you want to show up your competitors. And the truth is that your company might not be ready to “give back” just yet. You can’t support the larger community if you aren’t making a nice, surplus of a profit. You can’t give back if you’re only looking to get some positive press after some negative coverage. You can’t do it if your leadership isn’t engaged or doesn’t care.
But once your company is ready to give back to the community, know that there are a myriad of ways to do this – that will benefit your business and the community. You don’t have to “go big” by launching a foundation. You can start with an “employee volunteer day” or a small corporate giving program. Heck, even buying a table at a nonprofit event can be a good first step. Over time, you can build your program into what you want and need it to be – for your business, for your employees, and for the community.